2009 Director’s Community Leadership Awards
|Albany||John P. Halligan
On October 7, 2003, John Halligan's son, Ryan Patrick Halligan, took his own life at the age of 13. Ryan Halligan was a victim of cyberbullying. He was taunted, harassed, and humiliated by classmates.
John Halligan and his wife, Kelly, taught their children Internet safety rules. The rules included: no chatting with strangers; no sharing personal information with strangers; no sending pictures; and no secret passwords. One last rule was that the children were to use a password that their parents selected for them, and these passwords were to be used for any and all accounts they signed up for.
Shortly after Ryan's death, John Halligan began searching for answers to his questions. Because of the password rule that he and his wife had instituted, he soon learned of the torture that his son was experiencing when he signed on to his son's instant messaging (IM) account. While online, he discovered a folder filled with IM exchanges. He quickly realized that his son was the victim of bullying and cyberbullying. Classmates had taunted him, and Ryan felt isolated.
John Halligan became one of Vermont's strongest advocates for young teens by channeling his grief and bringing attention to his son's senseless passing.
Through his efforts, the state of Vermont enacted the Bully Prevention Law, Act 117. This law was signed on May 18, 2004, and it established prevention procedures and policies for schools within the state.John Halligan continues to focus his attention on this very important issue. He speaks on bullying and teen suicide to national audiences through television shows and radio broadcasts, and he makes public appearances at schools across the country. He also meets with legislators to discuss laws that will protect young people from the tragedy that struck his son.